Ngunjiri Wambugu: Can a Kikuyu Council of Elders protect the community?

During the first two months of this year, there was a deliberate isolation of the Kikuyu as a community.

Whatever the reasons were, the result was that the community retreated to its tribal relations, creating a unity some say has not been seen since the Mau Mau war of the mid 1950s.

The Kikuyu have been coming together primarily to raise material support to help their displaced brothers and sisters, especially in the Rift Valley. But these meetings have also tackled debate on how things got this bad, where ‘the river left the banks’.

One result of these discussions has been the gradual realisation that Kikuyus seem to be the only tribe with no non-political community leadership.

During several community events, there has been debate on whether the community should re-establish a council of elders, last heard of in the 1950s.

Those against its formation say political leaders are articulating the needs of the community adequately. They also think a council would lead to confusion over whose opinion has more weight in decisions, especially those with political ramifications.

This group also insists that the Kikuyu should lead other communities away from tribal cocoons and into nationalistic platforms whenever dealing with issues.

But those who want a council of elders established feel that ethnicity is a reality, with political positions being negotiated according to community numbers.

This group believes there is need to separate political representation from community leadership, to avoid confused signals, especially when the interests of the political class go against those of the community. They argue that a council of elders will enable the Kikuyu wield their 22 per cent stake in the country in a way political leaders cannot.

They also say the community’s politicians are currently not being heard when they speak. They say the views of politicians tend to be taken out of context because the President is a Kikuyu, which would not be the case were it a council of elders speaking.

Ameru’s Njuri Ncheke

It is a fact that community leadership has a profound effect on politics, both at the local and national levels. This was strongly apparent during the campaigns where the media were awash with clips of members of the Luo, Kalenjin, Miji Kenda, Luhya politicians seeking blessings from their community elders. This was the same even with politicians from Meru, who are ethnically close to the Kikuyu, who consulted the Njuri Ncheke.

Those trying to find solutions to problems that have afflicted the community feel several Kikuyu politicians would resist the formation of a council because it would dilute their influence in the community.

They say such a council might stand in the way of political ambitions because it might vet how well an individual can articulate the needs of the community. This would determine whether they would support one’s political bid.

A significant question is whether a Kikuyu council of elders would have appreciated the danger of an opposition political strategy seeking to isolate them as a community, by branding them as the root cause of all the country’s problems.

This was also evident during and after the referendum. The proponents ask whether such a council would have advised on an appropriate counter-strategy to the Kikuyu-phobia the opposition whipped up in last year’s campaigns.

It would also have been interesting to see how such a council would have responded to the government’s operation against the Mungiki last year, which seemed to target any young Kikuyu male adult.

Would a Kikuyu Council of Elders have talked to their counterparts from other communities after the presidential vote tally? Would the various sides have reached an agreement that their communities would avoid violence, and leave the dispute to politicians?

The writer is a member of the local chapter for Kenya Movement for Justice and Democracy.

Bookmark the permalink.